By Claire Barber | Photo by Anil Jergens

When I was a kid there was a time where, whenever I went into a swimming pool, I had to do underwater somersaults as many times as I could until my lungs felt like bursting.

Don’t ask me why. I don’t even know why. It was some weird challenge I had mysteriously signed myself up for. Anyway, my point here is that humans have wacky inclinations.

We become attached to things. Some of those things make sense. Like, for example, the connections we have to fellow flesh bag homo sapiens. Wanting connection means protection and community. Logical.

But then we get into somersaults and crystals and angel figurines and two-dollar cowboy hats and well, then I’m lost.

Of course, I might just surround myself with people who have superstitions and don’t take showers and are a bit “out of the box.” But I have this itchy feeling that maybe that’s not the case.

It doesn’t take long to find people who have good luck charms or habits when they recreate outdoors — at least at Colorado College. I didn’t have to go far at all; for full journalistic transparency, these people are my friends. Quarantine can make it difficult to find interview subjects.

Cade Quigley ’22 has a reiki crystal he carries with him on his day and multi-day expeditions.

His crystal has supposed healing and focusing energies. “I’d rather use my WFR [Wilderness First Responder] before my reiki healing,” Quigley said, “but in case all else fails, it’s good to have that energy.”

He recognizes that nothing is absolute about the crystal’s power, and that he usually doesn’t quite know if he feels a lot of energy from it at all, but the crystal is an assurance of some sort. I mean, if a grizzly bear is threatening to attack, he’s not going to rely on the crystal, but when has having a crystal ever hurt anyone?

The crystal has (according to Quigley and several other acquaintances) healed a computer before. After dying a painful death of coffee spill suffocation, Quigley gave the MacBook some crystal healing love, and the it came back to life for twelve hours.

I asked what other habits Quigley has had or has witnessed while recreating outside. He explained that when he was on a trip to Moab last year, his group circled up and reminded each other of their purpose before their projects. It helped “focus your mind and be in the moment and be aware.” And that’s what, for the most part, these habits seem to come to. The crystal, and this meditation, provide an opportunity to channel energy and your mind.

So maybe, sometimes our “wacky” habits and good luck charms aren’t that wacky at all, when you get to the core of them.

Rowan Kinney ’22 asks the ocean for permission every time he goes into it. He doesn’t remember who taught him, it’s just something he does, to respect the power of it all.

Then there’s Jessie Lyons ’22 who explained a tradition her family has. “Everyone in my family has an angel of some sort, even though we aren’t religious, and my mom keeps hers on her hiking backpack and switches it to her backpacking backpack.”  

For Lyons’ mom, the angel exemplifies a type of protective energy. When she takes the token with her, it embodies both the protective energy of Kim (the woman who gave her the angel) and the symbol of the gesture itself, of the act of gift giving.

Angels. Little tokens of trust. 

Our habits in the outdoors can mean a lot of things. I have a habit of always wearing this two-dollar cowboy hat from the ARC. That one doesn’t have a lot of deep meaning; I just like it. I also have two necklaces I never take off unless I’m diving in the ocean. They have sentimental value.

Our crystals, our charms, and our habits provide a semblance of peace. A respect for the past, for the present, for whatever the heck energy you believe in. Or maybe, like underwater somersaults, they just add some spice to the mundane waters of a hotel swimming pool.

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